Empire Games

Watching the Olympics, Dalrymple sees parallels with Edward Gibbons’ Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire:

“On his return from the East to Rome, Philip, desirous of obliterating the memory of his crimes, and of captivating the affections of the people, solemnized the secular games with infinite pomp and magnificence.”

History does not repeat itself except by analogy—and here, it is hard not to see an analogy between Philip and former prime minister Anthony Blair. Of course, we live, as Gibbon might have put it, in a politer age, when crimes have to be muted, untruths disguised by rhetoric, and the ruination of states performed by stealth rather than by personal extravagance and outright defalcation. Still, Blair’s regime benefited only those who worked for it, and the Olympics, for which he lobbied hard, were his parting gift to the nation he had betrayed, a fitting memorial to a man with a soul of tinsel.

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